The 8-year-old who can now eat by himself, and other rehab-tech success stories

A team at Pele, the innovation program at Jerusalem’s ALYN Hospital, came up with a solution that combines an aluminium frame, a spoon, a wheel, and a big smile from Yusuf

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Eight-year old Yussuf wanted to eat independently but couldn't; so the Pele program at Alyn Hospital developed a device to help him do just that (YouTube screen shot)
Eight-year old Yussuf wanted to eat independently but couldn't; so the Pele program at Alyn Hospital developed a device to help him do just that (YouTube screen shot)

Eight-year old Yusuf, a resident of East Jerusalem, has a debilitating bone illness that makes it difficult for him to bend his joints. One of his greatest wishes was to be able to eat independently rather than be fed or have to bring his mouth to his plate.

So a team of workers at Pele, a tech-innovation program at the Jerusalem-based ALYN Hospital, Israel’s only pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation facility, decided to help him out. Pele’s Ohad Gal-Or brainstormed with a local volunteer from Intel Corp. and came up with a solution that combines an aluminum structure, a spoon, a plate, a wheel that Yusuf can turn, some electronics and the use of a 3D printer. And Yusuf can now eat by himself.

The PELE program at Alyn focuses on finding personalized solutions for children with special needs. A second innovation track at the hospital, called ALYNovation, is for entrepreneurs and inventors to develop assistive technology products and solutions for children, intended for the international market

A video released by Alyn shows how the technology works — and Yusuf, who got the gadget just two weeks ago — happily learning to use it.

“We are calling on all children in Israel who have a challenge to come to us so we can find a personalized solution, tailor-made for them,” said Hilla Boral, the director of the PELE program. “Yusuf wanted to be independent, so we listened to his wish.”

The idea, she said, was to find products that can be made quickly and cheaply. The solution that is developed is then made available via ALYN’s website for other developers to use globally, according to needs. “Ours is an open source development,” she said.

Pele was set up last year to develop in-house products and technologies that will improve  independent function and quality of life for children with special needs.

The Innovation Center of ALYN, which started operations in January this year, allows entrepreneurs and developers to share a state-of-the-art workspace with their target audience — the children undergoing rehabilitation at ALYN.

ALYN diagnoses and treats children with a wide range of congenital and acquired conditions, from birth to adolescence. The hospital has over 80 years of experience in pediatric rehabilitation and its staff often develops in-house personalized, innovative solutions for patients.

Pele has already developed products for other children, including a pet-feeding mechanism for a child who could only move a finger: at the press of a button lettuce gets released into a guinea pig cage. A 13-year-old whose cancer has affected his ability to stretch his arms and made it impossible for him to independently put on his tefillin aka phylacteries — a small set of leather boxes with scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, which Jews wear during morning prayers above their forehead and on the upper arm –received a device from Pele experts to help him do just that.

Another development is smart shoe soles equipped with electronic sensors to gather information on gait and walking habits, which help practitioners figure out which walking gadgets are best suited for their patients.

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